ANAT2241 Liver, Gallbladder, and Pancreas

From Embryology

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ANAT2241 This practical support page content is not part of the virtual science practical class and provides additional information for student self-directed learning purposes. All practical class pages are located on Moodle - ANAT2241

General Objective

To know the histological structure and major functions of the liver, gall bladder and pancreas.

Specific Objectives

  1. To know the histology of the liver, including the hepatic lobule, hepatic acinus, hepatic parenchyma, portal area, and histological features of the vascular and biliary systems.
  2. To appreciate the 3-D arrangement of hepatocytes and know their major functions.
  3. To know the histological features of the wall of the gallbladder.
  4. To know the histological features of the exocrine and endocrine pancreas.

Learning Activities

Examine the following virtual slides, identify, draw and label the following features.

Discuss and make a note of their function(s).

Virtual Slides: Liver, Gallbladder, and Pancreas

Portal Triad
Liver cellular structure cartoon


Liver Histology: Central vein (label) | Central vein (unlabel) | Portal triad 1 (label) | Portal triad 2 (label) | Portal triad (unlabel) | Hepatocytes (unlabel) | Hepatocytes polyploid (label) | Liver - reticular connective tissue (LP) | Liver - reticular connective tissue (HP) | Liver - fetal (HP) | Liver - fetal (HP) | Liver Development | GIT Histology

Liver Lobule

This looped animation shows the different ways of interpreting the cellular structure of the liver lobule. Liver animated cartoon.gif

Liver Blood Flow

Dual blood supply of the liver merges upon entry into the liver lobule at the portal field.
  1. branches of the portal vein
  2. branches of the hepatic artery
Liver structure cartoon.jpg


These are the adult functional cells forming the majority of the liver (80% of the cells).

Many different functions including:

  • Storage of substances including glucose (as glycogen), vitamin A (possibly in specialized adipocytes), vitamin B12, folic acid and iron.
  • Lipid Turnover synthesis of plasmalipoproteins
  • Plasma Protein Synthesis albumin, alpha and beta globulins, prothrombin, fibrinogen
  • Metabolism fat soluble compounds (drugs, insecticides), steroid hormones turnover
  • Secretion bile (about 1 litre/day)
Adult Liver sinusoid structure

Liver Histology

Liver Histology: Central vein (label) | Central vein (unlabel) | Portal triad 1 (label) | Portal triad 2 (label) | Portal triad (unlabel) | Hepatocytes (unlabel) | Hepatocytes polyploid (label) | Liver - reticular connective tissue (LP) | Liver - reticular connective tissue (HP) | Liver - fetal (HP) | Liver - fetal (HP) | Liver Development | GIT Histology
Liver histology 001.jpg Liver histology 004.jpg
Liver histology 002.jpg Liver histology 003.jpg

Liver histology 005.jpg

Hepatocyte Polyploidy

Liver histology 004.jpg

Human hepatocytes

Liver polyploidy 01.jpg

Mouse hepatocytes in vitro and in vivo[1]

Electron Micrograph

The electron micrographs below show the cellular, vascular and bilary organisation of the liver.

Kupffer cell in liver sinusoid
Liver histology EM01.jpg
Bile canaliculi
Liver histology EM02.jpg
Liver SEM01.jpg

Bile Canaliculi and Sinusoids [2]

Liver sinusoidal endothelial cell fenestrations.jpg

Liver sinusoidal endothelial cell fenestrations[3]

Gall Bladder

Gall bladder wall


  • Pear-shaped
  • distensible sac (about 50ml volume)
  • Attached to posterioinferior surface of liver
  • Embryonic - foregut, forms from primitive bile duct
  • leads to cystic duct
    • Liver -> hepatic duct
    • Gall bladder -> cystic duct
    • Common Bile duct

Macroscopic Mucosal features:

  • Mucosa (epithelium + lamina propria)
    • Mucosal folds
    • Rokintansky-Aschoff sinuses
  • Serosa/Adventitia (dense CT + visceral mesothelium)


  • Columnar epithelium with microvilli (absorptive epithelium)
    • Epithelium lining the biliary system does not contain mucus-producing cells (few located in neck of gall bladder)
  • Basement membrane (not basal lamina which forms part of basement membrane and only visible by EM)

Lamina Propria

  • connective tissue
  • collagen fibers and fibroblasts
  • fenestrated capillaries and venules
  • lymphocytes and plasma cells

Smooth Muscle Layer

  • random orientation of smooth muscle cells (fibers)
  • muscularis propria (or fibromuscular coat)[4]
    • not like the rest of GIT smooth muscle organisation, which is divided into muscularis mucosa (inside submucosa), muscularis externa (circular and longitudinal)
    • various terminology used for this layer in different sources


  • Dense connective tissue layer covered with visceral mesothelium epithelial layer
    • Adventitia - where it is attached to the liver
    • Serosa - where it is free in the peritoneum
  • Large blood vessels (arteries, veins)
  • Obvious lymphatic vessels
  • Autonomic nerve bundles
  • Adipose tissue


Gall bladder histology 001.jpg Gall bladder histology 002.jpg

Gall bladder histology 003.jpg Gall bladder histology 004.jpg

See also Animated labeled image


  1. <pubmed>20861837</pubmed>| PMC2967727 | Nature
  2. Watanabe N, Tsukada N, Smith CR & Phillips MJ. (1991). Motility of bile canaliculi in the living animal: implications for bile flow. J. Cell Biol. , 113, 1069-80. PMID: 2040644
  3. Mönkemöller V, Øie C, Hübner W, Huser T & McCourt P. (2015). Multimodal super-resolution optical microscopy visualizes the close connection between membrane and the cytoskeleton in liver sinusoidal endothelial cell fenestrations. Sci Rep , 5, 16279. PMID: 26549018 DOI.
  4. <pubmed>21074688</pubmed>


  • Glisson's capsule (Glisson's sheath) - a collagenous capsule covering the external surface of the liver the outer layer comprising a single layer of mesothelial cells. The capsule also extends into the liver as "sheaths" around the hepatic ducts, hepatic arteries and portal tributaries. Named after Francis Glisson (1599 – 1677) a British anatomist.
  • Kupffer cells - liver macrophage located in sinusoidal space. Named after Karl Wilhelm von Kupffer (1829 - 1902 ) a German anatomist.
  • sinusoids (vascular sinusoids, liver sinusoids) - the spaces between the hepatocytes that are distensible vascular channels lined with fenestrated endothelial cells forming a discontinuous simple squamous epithelium.
  • stellate cells (Ito cells) - Named after Toshio Ito, a twentieth century Japanese physician PMID 11450594

External Links

External Links Notice - The dynamic nature of the internet may mean that some of these listed links may no longer function. If the link no longer works search the web with the link text or name. Links to any external commercial sites are provided for information purposes only and should never be considered an endorsement. UNSW Embryology is provided as an educational resource with no clinical information or commercial affiliation.

Course Links

Moodle - ANAT2241 - 2019

Histology Glossary: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | ANAT2241 Support | Histology | Histology Stains | Embryology Glossary

Common Histology Stains  
Histology Stains - Common Stains and Their Reactions
mucins - light blue
pale pink
bright red
colloid - pinkmuscle - red
Iron Haematoxylin
Van Gieson
muscle: yellow/browncartilage - pink
Verhoeff's Elastin
elastic fibres - black
Silver Impregnation
reticular fibres - black
Methyl Green
dark green
light green
light green
Nuclear Fast Red
Gomori's Trichrome
keratin - redmuscle - purple/red
Heidenhain's Azan
deep blue
muscle - red
Osmium Tetroxide
myelin, lipids - black
Alcian Blue
mucins, - blue
Periodic acid-Schiff (PAS)
mucins, glycogen, glycocalyx - magenta
Phosphotungstic Acid-Hematoxylin (PTAH)
muscle bands - blue
Masson's Trichrome
cartilage, mucins - blue or green; muscle - red
Luxol Fast Blue
myelin - blue
Aldehyde Fuchsin
elastic fibres, mast cells - deep purple
Light Green
light green
dark blue
nucleic acids, Nissl granules - dark blue
Romanowsky (e.g. Leishman's)
acidophils - red, basophils - blue, azurophilic - purple
Aldehyde Pararosanilin elastic fibres - purple
Haematoxylin and Eosin
One of the most common staining techniques in pathology and histology. Acronym "H and E" stain. (H&E, HE).

  • Stains nuclei blue to dark-blue.
  • Stains the matrix of hyaline cartilage, myxomatous, and mucoid material pale blue.
  • Stains myelin weakly but is not noticeable if combined with eosin stain.
  • combined with Orange G (H & Or. G.) instead of eosin, specifically stains the granules of acidophilic cells of the adenohypophysis (anterior pituitary).
  • Stains cytoplasm pink to red; red blood cells are also bright red.
  • Common counterstain to hematoxylin.
  • Stain intensity varies with the formula as well as the fixative.

Practical Support

Pages can be accessed from any internet connected computer.

ANAT2241 Support Links: The Virtual Microscope | Covering and Lining Epithelia | Glandular Epithelia | CT Components | CT Types | Bone, Bone Formation and Joints | Muscle | Nervous | Blood | Eye | Cardiovascular | Respiratory | Integumentary | Gastrointestinal | Gastrointestinal Organs | Lymphatic and Immune | Endocrine | Urinary | Female Reproductive | Male Reproductive | Histology Stains | Histology Drawings | Practicals Health and Safety 2013 | Moodle - 2019

ANAT2241 This practical support page content is not part of the science practical class and provides only background information for student self-directed learning purposes.

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, May 18) Embryology ANAT2241 Liver, Gallbladder, and Pancreas. Retrieved from,_Gallbladder,_and_Pancreas

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© Dr Mark Hill 2024, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G